Nonstick cook pot
Easy-to-read control panel
No manual pressure button
Difficult to see the pressure valve
No medium temperature setting
Error code alert is unreliable
The Crock-Pot brand has cornered the market on electric slow cookers for decades, so it’s interesting to see it join the cook-it-fast movement that’s fueling the demand for electric pressure cookers. Of course, these countertop plug-in appliances also double as slow cookers, so maybe it’s not that much of a stretch.
Still, the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Express Crock Multi-Cooker is a departure from the brand’s usual form and function, with a nonstick metal cook pot as opposed to Crock-Pot’s usual ceramic inserts—and, of course, the ability to cook stews in both minutes as well as hours. How well does the brand’s entry into the crowded multi-cooker marketplace stack up to the competition? We put it to the test to find out.
Performance: Gets the job done
In terms of its straight-up ability to successfully pressure cook or slow cook a wide variety of foods, the Express Crock performs just as reliably as other electric multi-cookers we’ve tried. Recipes we tested using Crock-Pot versus the other brands turned out the same, and it came to pressure just as fast if not a few seconds faster.
The Express Crock performs just as reliably as other electric multi-cookers we’ve tried.
We pressure cooked eggs, brown rice, steel-cut oats, an Indian chickpea stew using dried chickpeas, Thai chicken curry, lentils and sausages, Bolognese sauce, and bread pudding. These recipes all turned out as well as they had in other electric pressure cookers we’ve tried. Slow cooking worked great, too. We slow-cooked beef chuck chili with dried beans, and the meat and beans were both tender in four hours on high. Then we added the tomato-vegetable base (because tomato’s acidity can keep beans from softening) and cooked it another four hours. This is the same method we used when testing other brands, and the results were just as superb.
The differences between the Express Crock and other brands are more about the user experience. For example, there’s no “medium” heat level on the Express Crock—just low and high—and we found we wanted a third option when we were sautéing.
In fact, when sautéing, we found that the “low” setting was actually akin to medium, and high was more like medium-high. It would have been ideal to have a third “medium-low” option for, say, caramelizing onions. That being said, we didn’t have any problems with burnt food, and the heat was even.
It would have been ideal to have a third 'medium-low' option for, say, caramelizing onions.
Electric pressure cookers must have at least 1 cup of liquid in order to come to pressure. Otherwise, not only will the contents not cook properly, but they’ll also likely start burning. In order to test how well the Express Pot handled this potential problem, we cooked a recipe that we knew from previous experience has just slightly too little liquid to bring the contents to pressure. Sure enough, the pot blew a steady stream of steam out of the valve, but it couldn’t get enough pressure going to push it up and seal it off. Soon, we began to smell things starting to burn, but we still didn’t see the error code (E6) that was supposed to alert us to the problem.
Design: Functional but quirky
The Express Crock looks just like most other multi-pots on the market. It has the same tall, round, stainless steel body and black lid. The touchpad, however, is black with white lettering, which we found much easier to read than the black-on-steel touchpad of the Instant Pot. One thing we didn’t like about the touchpad was that there’s no separate cancel or stop button. Instead, it’s a toggle start/stop button. Whenever we accidentally pressed the wrong preset, we had to hit that button twice, essentially starting it just to stop it.
The screen only offers a blue LED cook time display, rather than the fancier LCD displays with progress charts and symbols. But hey, at least it’s a nice, cool blue and not warning-sign red.
The lid is designed slightly differently than other multi-cookers, with the valves toward to the side rather than at the back. This makes them a little easier to see and to access, reducing the risk of getting burned from hot steam when releasing the vent. The lid itself is noticeably easier to click into place, unlike some other brands that have trouble sliding in right the first time. We also appreciated that the words “venting” and “sealing” were printed in white rather than simply embossed on the plastic, so it was much easier to see which direction we needed to turn the vent.
When letting the pressure in the pot come down naturally, it was impossible to tell when it was done.
The only problem with the lid is how the pressure float valve (or “bobber”) stays buried in its depths even when the appliance is at full pressure. That means it’s pretty much impossible to tell by looking at it if the pot is under pressure or not. Since the cooking countdown will start once the pot is under pressure, we didn’t really need a visible bobber for that part. But when letting the pressure in the pot come down naturally, it was impossible to tell when it was done. We waited longer than likely necessary, then flicked the steam vent just to make sure.
If you’re used to other brands of multi-cookers, the Express Crock is a little jarring at first because everything is opposite. The open and close modes on the steam vent work in the opposite direction. The lid locks in the opposite direction. Even the temperature and pressure settings on the touchpad go from high to low rather than low to high.
Features: Keeping it simple
One thing that sets the Express Crock apart from other multi-cookers is its nonstick cook pot. The Instant Pot makes a ceramic nonstick pot, but you have to buy it separately. We were careful to use wooden utensils when cooking with the pot over the course of a month, and the coating held up nicely.
We did notice the top rim of the pot was beginning to get scratched, probably from those times the lid banged it, or from being set on a drying rack after washing. Still, ingredients didn’t stick while sautéing, and it was very easy to clean. However, not everyone is a fan of nonstick coating and its associated chemicals, and it does eventually wear out. There’s no stainless steel alternative, but replacements are available online.
Most multi-cookers heavily market their pre-set programs, touting themselves as 9-in-1 or 14-in-1 devices. Express Crock is no different with its 8-in-1 claim. It bears noting, however, that these programs are simply pre-set times and temperatures that you’ll likely have to adjust according to your recipe anyway. We’ve found that when using these appliances, we usually skip the settings and head right to the manual pressure button, but we were surprised to find the Express Crock doesn’t have one.
Now, this is not a big problem since it was easy enough to hit one of the pre-set program buttons, like “Beans/Chili,” and then adjust the set time and temp up or down depending on the recipe requirements. In fact, that’s what the instruction booklet says to do. But since most pressure cooker recipes are written for manual mode, randomly picking a pre-set instead of “pressure” and then still having to customize it just seems silly and slightly confusing. Also, the Express Crock doesn’t remember your last setting. It always reverts back to the default settings. So if you tend to cook the same recipes, the pre-set programs won’t learn your preferences and make it a one-touch operation.
One thing that sets the Express Crock apart from other multi-cookers is its nonstick cook pot.
All multi-cooker yogurt recipes follow the same technique when making yogurt: The milk is brought to 180 degrees, then cooled, mixed with starter culture, and placed back into the multi-cooker on the yogurt setting for 8 hours. In other multi-cookers we’ve tried, the initial scalding step is part of the program. In the Express Crock, that step is hands-on. The recipe booklet instructed us to keep the lid off and frequently whisk the milk as it comes to temp, but it took almost 50 minutes, and the unit shut off every time the milk reached 170 degrees instead of 180 degrees. We finally had to hit the saute button to heat it the rest of the way.
The Express Crock offers a time delay function of up to four hours, in case you want to set things up but start the cooking later. But four hours isn’t long enough if you want to prep your morning oatmeal the night before so it’ll be ready when you wake up. And keep in mind, it’s not recommended to use a delayed start with perishable ingredients.
It’s worth noting that the multi-cooker is much quieter than others we’ve tried. There are no musical notes letting you know the lid is on right. There’s just one beep for every button you push, and one beep letting you know it’s done. Although we’ve been annoyed with other brands that take the beeping too far, we do wish the Express Pot offered a little bit more of an alert when the cooking was done. It was very easy to miss that first beep when we were in the other room.
Accessories: The bare minimum
The Express Crock comes with just three of the basic accessories that pretty much all other multi-cooker brands have: a condensation catcher, a plastic paddle, and a steaming rack. Like the Instant Pot, the steaming rack has feet that are just a bit too short to keep stuff on the rack out of the contents in the bottom of the pot, and it doesn’t even have handles to make it easier to lift and lower it. Extra sealing gaskets, a glass lid, and replacement racks, pots, and lids are all sold separately. The booklet of recipes was nicely produced and has a decent range of things to try, but the manual is a simple, very basic, black-and-white brochure.
Cleaning: Hand washing recommended
Compared to other brands of electric multicookers, the Express Crock isn’t quite as easy to clean. The other brands we tested made it clear that the lids, gaskets, and stainless steel inserts are all dishwasher safe. However, Crock-Pot’s manual stipulates washing its lid and gasket by hand. It says the insert is technically dishwasher safe but recommends hand washing to better preserve the nonstick interior.
Price: Affordable, but not always the cheapest
Most 6-quart multi-cookers with a similar number of functions retail for close to $100, and the Express Crock is no different. However, it can usually be found for $69.99. This makes it one of the most affordable multi-cookers on the market. However, Instant Pot often sells its comparable 6-quart Duo 60 7-in-1 model for the same reduced rate and even cheaper depending on the time of year and retailer. In that case, the more basic Express Pot isn’t always the best deal.
Crock-Pot 6-Quart Express Crock Multi-Cooker vs. Instant Pot Duo 60 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker
Can the most iconic brand in electric slow cookers compete with the most iconic brand in electric pressure cookers? That’s a tough call, especially considering they are commonly sold at the same price. We tested both and found that they perform about the same and offer a similar range of pre-set programs. But the Instant Pot offers three levels of heat (and therefore more control while sautéing), remembers your settings, and has a manual pressure button for when you don’t want to mess with pre-set programs. It’s also about an inch shorter and narrower.
It’s basic but hard-working.
The Crock-Pot 6-Quart Express Crock Multi-Cooker may lack a few features, but they don’t make a big difference in cooking performance. Overall, the multi-cooker performs just as well as the most popular brands and is one of the most affordable on the market.
- Product Name 6-Quart Express Crock Multi-Cooker
- Product Brand Crock-Pot
- MPN SCCPPC600-V1
- Price $99.99
- Weight 12.8 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 13.6 x 13.6 x 11.9 in.
- Warranty 1 year, limited
- What’s Included Express Pot, condensation catcher, plastic paddle, steaming rack, manual, recipe booklet